Obama Defends Compromise on New FISA Bill

Friday, July 4, 2008

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama responded yesterday to supporters dismayed by his support for a compromise version of the Foreign Intelligence Suveillance Act (FISA).

One unhappy backer had formed the group "Senator Obama Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity -- Get FISA Right" on Obama's social networking site. By the end of the workday yesterday, that group had grown to more than 16,000 members -- making it the single largest group on Obama's site, MyBarackObama.com.

In response to the growing online dissent, Obama took to his blog yesterday afternoon to address concerns about his position on the intelligence surveillance bill.

"This was not an easy call for me," he wrote. "I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power.

". . . But I also believe that the compromise bill is far better than the Protect America Act that I voted against last year. The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any President or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court."

Obama also sought to reassure the activists that he values their opinions. "Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I'm happy to take my lumps on this site and elsewhere. For the truth is that your organizing, your activism and your passion is an important reason why this bill is better than previous versions," he wrote. ". . . I cannot promise to agree with you on every issue. But I do promise to listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn your ongoing support to change the country."

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

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